South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival – A man dealing with the tragic and sudden loss of his wife is no doubt going to be highly emotional and gut-wrenching, but Broadcast Signal Intrusion (2021) is just as much of a horror movie as it is a painful narrative drama, dealing with the horror of a serial killer in this mystery thriller. A great, new addition to video tape-based horror movies, Broadcast Signal Intrusion is directed by Jacob Gentry and broadcasts its premiere in the “Midnighters” category of SXSW Online 2021.
In Chicago of 1999, James (Harry Shum Jr.) lives alone as a widower and works as an audio-visual repairman and Video-DVD transcriber. One night while recording an old video broadcast to DVD, he stumbles upon a mysterious segment of tape where the broadcast was hacked, briefly showing an eerily deformed female face with a robotic, unintelligible voice. James takes to the broadcasting enthusiast message boards to begin investigating this occurrence and realizes that these broadcast signal intrusions happen periodically. As he follows the patterns down a rabbit hole, James finds that it is difficult to let go of his obsession and climb his way out.
Harry Shum Jr. is not like I have ever seen him before — he is given a lot of room to stretch his acting limbs in Broadcast Signal Intrusion, and he truly drives this movie forward, sucking me into his mind as his obsession with solving a mystery grows ever more fervent and psychologically hellbent. Broadcast Signal Intrusion is not quite a heart-racing thriller, but it is a movie full of twists and turns and its fair share of jump scares that don’t just feel gimmicky but truly scared the sh*t out of me with their disturbing imagery. Furthermore, the music in this movie is excellent, seriously, achieving really deep, low-toned sounds that vibrated throughout the movie, adding to the feeling of mounting pressure.
Despite enjoying Harry, the sound design, and the musical score, I did have some gripes about Broadcast Signal Intrusion that affected my experience. There was sometimes lazy use of characters, specifically that a couple of characters felt like after-thoughts, and if they were missing from the film, the story or outcome would not change at all, making them fluff despite their prominence. For a lot of the movie, primarily the first third, I would say that unlikely human choices are made in order for the plot to unfold, but these minor leaps in logic are overshadowed by the magnetism of Harry Shum Jr.’s acting and the paranoid and intense atmosphere that director Jacob Gentry was able to create.
Overall, I found that Broadcast Signal Intrusion landed only just on the other side of a mediocre mainstream movie for me, coming off like a PG-rated version of Videodrome. As the obsession grows the film takes on a cat and mouse kind of structure, only unlike in other serial killer films, the killer is not really given space to taunt the cat in a satisfactory way, nor in a way that might give this movie more character and make it memorable. As it stands, in my opinion, there were one too many characters and/or ideas in constructing this story, but thank god for Harry Shum Jr. being vulnerable yet steadfast in his performance, and for director Jacob Gentry for some really nice shots in creating an edgy thriller.
MOVIE RATING — 6.75 out of 10